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Sacramento Kings Rumors: Tough Stretch Run Schedule, Impact Of Huerter’s Injury, Vezenkov and Lyles Injury Status

The Sacramento Kings are down a starter for at least the foreseeable future, as Kevin Huerter has a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum. It is unknown how long Huerter will be out as the Kings and Huerter are still evaluating treatment options. Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reported before Sacramento’s 109-102 loss to the Washington Wizards last night.

Sacramento Kings Rumors: Tough Stretch Run Schedule, Impact Of Huerter’s Injury, Vezenkov and Lyle Injury Updates

However, Anderson said Huerter will unlikely return during the regular season with just 22 days left. Anderson added it is also unlikely that Huerter will play again this season.

“A study published by the National Library of Medicine in 2020 showed NBA players who sustained a shoulder dislocation returned after an average of 7.6 weeks. New York Knicks star Julius Randle is ramping up to a return after missing almost eight weeks with a right shoulder dislocation. Players who underwent surgery to repair shoulder instability were sidelined for an average of 19 weeks. Grizzlies star Ja Morant underwent season-ending surgery after suffering a torn labrum in January.

An eight-week recovery would prevent Huerter from returning until May 13. The conference semifinals are scheduled to begin May 6-7, and the conference finals are set to start May 21-22.

Huerter was injured two minutes into Sacramento’s 121-111 victory over Memphis on Monday when Desmond Bane swiped down to strip the ball but instead hit Huerter’s shoulder as he went for a layup.

Coach Mike Brown said Keon Ellis would remain in the starting lineup as long as Huerter is out.

What Does Huerter’s Injury Mean for Kings?

While Huerter’s offensive production has significantly dropped off from last year’s career season, he is still an essential part of the Kings rotation. Huerter is averaging 10.2 points, his lowest output since his rookie campaign, as he is shooting 44.3% from the field and a career-worst 36.1% from the 3-point line.

Part of the reason for the dropoff is that Huerter’s role has changed from a year ago.

Granted, Huerter has struggled shooting the ball. However, he has lacked consistent playing time and offensive rhythm, which is particularly important for the 25-year-old sharpshooter, as Malik Monk and Keegan Murray have taken on a bigger responsibility. Huerter has scored in double figures in 33 of his 64 appearances, compared to last year, when he failed to reach double digits in 19 of his 74 games.

Still, Huerter’s absence puts the burden on his teammates to step up down the stretch. The Kings’ biggest challenge going forward, as they are 3-2 without Huerter after their loss to the Wizards, is to find shooting and scoring off the bench.

The Kings second unit were outscored by the Wizards’ reserves 26-13, if you discount Monk’s 20 points as he saw nearly 30 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Ellis only tallied three points in 20 minutes as he dealt with foul trouble.

Sacramento was inefficient offensively last night despite knocking down a respectable 11 3-pointers. The Kings produced an offensive rating of 104, 13 points down from their season average of 117.2 –12th best in the league—-as they shot just 29.8% from the 3-point line. With the loss to the Wizards,  Sacramento fell to 3-2 without Huerter.

The Kings Rotation Without Huerter

The loss to Washington dropped Sacramento (40-29) into the play-in tournament and eighth place in the Western Conference. The Kings are a half-game out of sixth place, which the Dallas Mavericks currently occupy. The Kings are 8-6 since the all-star break, which is good for the 10th-best record in the league, with a +4.2 scoring margin.

Sacramento has the league’s third most brutal remaining schedule, with its opponents posting a cumulative winning percentage of .563. The Kings are at Orlando tonight. The Kings return to Sacramento for a five-game homestand, Starting against Philadelphia on Monday. They then play consecutive games versus Dallas before concluding the month against Utah.

So, how will the Kings replace Huerter?

Monk projects to see most of the time at shooting guard down the stretch despite Ellis being anointed the starter. Monk and Harrison Barnes will be counted on to pick up some of the scoring slack. Like Huerter, Barnes’s role has diminished this year compared to last year.

Barnes has played well despite averaging 12.4 points, his lowest total since 2016-17. The 31-year-old has canned nearly two treys a game while shooting 48.9% from the field and 40.2% from the 3-point line.

While Ellis is not much of an offensive threat, Brown likely likes his size and defensive prowess, along with the diminutive De’Aaron Fox. The Kings are 7-1 with Ellis in the starting five, outscoring opponents by 83 points.

Davion Mitchell should also continue to see time as the Kings fourth guard. While Monk can run the point, he is best off the ball. Plus, Mitchell is a better defender than Monk. The problem is that Mitchell is not much of an offensive threat and doesn’t shoot the ball well from the perimeter.

Chris Duarte could be part of the the Kings second unit, but he has struggled on both ends of the floor this year.

Vezenkov and Lyles

In addition to Huerter’s injury, the Kings have been without  Sasha Vezenkov and Trey Lyles.

Vezenkov could return tonight. Vezenenkov, who is questionable for tonight’s game against Orlando, has been out with an ankle injury since the trade deadline. The 6-9 rookie gives the Kings size and much-needed shooting with Huerter out.

Lyles has been out since injuring his knee against Milwaukee on March 12. He sprained his MCL in that game and is set to be reevaluated late next week.

Lyles is an integral part of the Kings frontcourt rotation, providing some scoring, shooting, rebounding, and rim protection. His best assets are his ability to space the floor, his toughness, and his defensive rebounding. The Kings are 29-20 with Lyles in the lineup and 11-9 in games he doesn’t play.

Projecting The Kings Stretch Run With Huerter

Starting Unit: Fox, Ellis, Murray, Barnes, and Domanatas Sabonis.

Second Unit: Monk, Lyles (if he returns), Mitchell, Vezenkov, Duarte/Alex Len.

Emergency: Kessler Edwards, JaVale McGee




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